How my grandmother would have loved the internet

Hi All,

Steve's new camera view from over our deck

Steve’s new camera view from over our deck

I always remember my grandmother as a very strong and resourceful woman. As children we used to love visiting her house as she always had some new and most interesting thing for us to do and if she hadn’t gotten around to getting grandad to make us a small loom or some other craft, we always had a large box of the most interesting puzzles and homemade games to keep us amused. If we weren’t in the mood for a game or puzzle, we had their wonderful garden to explore or we could always push off in the bootle bumtrinket, a tiny little rowboat that we could explore the small island that was just off a point not too far from their home on the inlet. My grandmother was a most interesting person and it showed.

What do you have for tea when it is 37C inside the house and you really don't want to cook and heat it up even more? You cook good old fashioned Aussie sausage rolls on the bbq! ;)

What do you have for tea when it is 37C inside the house and you really don’t want to cook and heat it up even more? You cook good old fashioned Aussie sausage rolls on the bbq! 😉

Steve took this lovely shot of some lichen on a branch at Hollybank

Steve took this lovely shot of some lichen on a branch at Hollybank

Another "Wait a minute while I take a photo!" moment...This is half a cooked artichoke that I am actually in the process of eating prior to being used as a hand model ;)

Another “Wait a minute while I take a photo!” moment…This is half a cooked artichoke that I am actually in the process of eating prior to being used as a hand model 😉

We no longer dread taking down the decorations as our "Ikea flat pack tree" makes it such an easy process. It's now under the spare bed taking up NO room at all :)

We no longer dread taking down the decorations as our “Ikea flat pack tree” makes it such an easy process. It’s now under the spare bed taking up NO room at all 🙂

She always had some kind of interesting thing that she was learning. She knew how to knit, to crochet, to tat and much more. She grew herbs in her garden and she was always learning as much as she could. I am sure that the local library gave her a gold card she used it that much. My grandparents weren’t wealthy but they had a wealth of knowledge between them. Grandad was a carpenter and could make just about anything to do with wood and Grandma was one of the most resourceful women that I know.

Steve using some kind of "mode" on his new camera that makes things look extra teeny tiny from high up. All you tech heads probably know what this function is but whatever it is, it looks pretty shmick ;)

Steve using some kind of “mode” on his new camera that makes things look extra teeny tiny from high up. All you tech heads probably know what this function is but whatever it is, it looks pretty shmick 😉

Lunch that consists of onion lightly sauteed in olive oil with lots of garlic, peas and beans and covered with water, brought up to the boil and some veggie stock powder added and then some ground brown rice flour. A most interesting and tasty lunch

Lunch that consists of onion lightly sauteed in olive oil with lots of garlic, peas and beans and covered with water, brought up to the boil and some veggie stock powder added and then some ground brown rice flour. A most interesting and tasty lunch reminiscent of polenta

A nice shot of moss from Hollybank

A nice shot of moss on an old dry stone wall at Hollybank

A tiny (1.5cm) frog on raspberry leaves at our friends house the other day

A tiny (1.5cm) frog on raspberry leaves at our friends house the other day

I was hunting for information about natural dyes this morning and found this amazing link

http://maiwahandprints.blogspot.ca/p/guide-to-natural-dyes.html

Practically a whole library book of information available to moi, sitting here in my early morning fuggish haze tinged with excitement from my glorious find. Anything that I want to learn about is online. I just have to do a bit of sifting and hunting for the quality stuff. It is getting harder and harder to sift through as so much utter garbage is being shuffled about in the name of twitter, hash tags and links that don’t actually lead anywhere but that’s the minefield that is the net. If you want quality information, you are just going to have to go out there and find it and that’s where I step in.

Bezial would like it to be known that he is NOT fat, he is big boned!

Bezial would like it to be known that he is NOT fat, he is big boned!

A Tasmanian trigger plant (Stylidium graminifolium) that Steve took a photo of with his new camera

A Tasmanian trigger plant (Stylidium graminifolium) that Steve took a photo of with his new camera

 

I love learning. I am also a penniless student hippy who lives a fair way away from the library. I adore the library and use it a lot (although not so much recently) but the internet allows me to hunt from my inner sanctum and save this information to my own little library of great happiness. As soon as I get interested in something (and lets face it, just about everything interests little old me 😉 ), I go hunting. My 3am starts are part RSS Feed Read and part “lets just see where this will take me…” a most delightful way to find things out.

A lovely young Tasmanian fairy wren sunning himself early the other day when we walked the dogs in the park over the Batman bridge

A lovely young Tasmanian Superb fairy wren sunning himself early the other day when we walked the dogs in the park over the Batman bridge

Steve headed over to the Gorge restaurant site in order to see if he could get some nice pictures the other day when he was in the city doing the shopping. This male peacock was most insistent that he take his photo. Isn't he lovely?

Steve headed over to the Gorge restaurant site in order to see if he could get some nice pictures the other day when he was in the city doing the shopping. This male peacock was most insistent that he take his photo. Isn’t he lovely?

My grandmother would have adored the internet. She would have immediately realised it’s intrinsic value to her as a long standing magpie. Information…for free…that you didn’t have to drive to town to get? SCORE! Grandma didn’t drive and my grandad only had his motorbike license so they had to wait till mum drove them to town so the internet would have given my grandmother a degree of freedom that she couldn’t have thought was even possible. She would also have been able to keep in contact with her sisters and other family in the U.K. for free. OH what an amazing resource we have at our fingertips for pennies. My grandmother would have called me a “lucky bugger” and I am fully cognisant of just what a lucky bugger I am.

New Years day cocktails

New Years day cocktails. Enough fruit and veggies in this one to call it lunch! 😉

Hot days = cold beer and shandies

Hot days = cold beer and shandies in our redneck drinking mugs 😉

Me sorting through my beer bottle caps that I have been collecting for a year

Me sorting through my beer bottle caps that I have been collecting for a year

(do you see what I have to put up with! ;) )

(do you see what I have to put up with! Apparently this is motion blur and focal points 😉 )

Getting jiggy with the hammer and flattening out the remaining beer bottle caps to turn them into teeny tiny alcoholic bunting for Stevie-boys music room

Getting jiggy with the hammer and flattening out the remaining beer bottle caps to turn them into teeny tiny alcoholic bunting for Stevie-boys music room

We have been very busy little beavers this week.  On New Years Eve I stayed up and both Stevie-boy and I welcomed in the New Year for once. We had a little basket with coal (that my mum had given me on her last Christmas here, I must have been naughty! 😉 ), bread and money in it and as Steve is naturally dark haired, he had to walk in to the doors (both opened up to let out the bad and let the good in) and receive the basket. By the sound of it, we were the only ones in Sidmouth up at 12 to see in the New Year. NO idea why we did this aside from sticking with someone else’s tradition and then we popped a cheap bottle of peach flavoured passion pop that Steve picked up as he thought that I wouldn’t stay awake for 12 and we wouldn’t need it. OH how wrong he was! It was pretty much undrinkable so we had a sip each, grimaced and then went to bed.

My prototype drop spindle until Steve can get around to making me a Turkish drop spindle

My prototype drop spindle until Steve can get around to making me a Turkish drop spindle

Gorgeous caramel coloured alpaca fleece for spinning on the drop spindle

Gorgeous caramel coloured alpaca fleece for spinning on the drop spindle

Even lovelier kid alpaca silvery grey/white fleece for spinning

Even lovelier kid alpaca silvery grey/white fleece for spinning

Steve has been taking SO many photos since he got his new (baby) camera. Here you can see me attempting to eat breakfast whilst being coerced into being a "model" for his practice ;)

Steve has been taking SO many photos since he got his new (baby) camera. Here you can see me attempting to eat breakfast whilst being coerced into being a “model” for his practice 😉

New Years Day arrived and we decided to spend it crafting. I hammered out bottle caps to make beer bottle bunting and a beer bottle lamp shade for Stevie-boys music room and researched how to nailbind. Nailbinding is an ancient Nordic craft that preceded knitting and crochet that the Vikings used to make clothing. It involves using a “nal” or a kind of long needle made out of bone or wood. Steve knocked me up a “nal” and I am ready to go once I start spinning my alpaca wool…alpaca wool?! Yes, Stewart and Kelsey came out and gifted me 2 enormous garbage bags of the most beautiful caramel and silvery white alpaca fleece for me to learn how to spin on. Stevie-boy had made me a drop spindle and they were out hunting for more wool for Kelsey as she is learning to spin on a drop spindle as well and thought that they might get me some as well. MUCHO happy guys :).  Now I just need to find the time to get started!

It always looks like Steve is doing all of the work around here but someone has to duck away to take the photos! ;)

It always looks like Steve is doing all of the work around here but someone has to duck away to take the photos! 😉

After hauling the 2 long sections of garden bed up the hill and into Sanctuary we hammered small star picket stakes into the ground in front of the bed to keep it in place when we loaded it up with soil

After hauling the 2 long sections of garden bed up the hill and into Sanctuary we hammered small star picket stakes into the ground in front of the bed to keep it in place when we loaded it up with soil

Looking back from the mountain of manure and oak leaves to the site where the new garden bed was being built

Looking back from the mountain of manure and oak leaves to the site where the new garden bed was being built

We then decided to create the next 2 gardens from the great and mighty mountain of aged horse poo and rotted oak leaves. Steve and I cobbled together  a garden bed out of old half rounds that we had found on the property and bits of rubbish timber that we had been storing for “a rainy day” (or a garden bed 😉 ). We then used it as a sort of terrace in Sanctuary. Steve headed off to do the shopping on Monday and I shoveled the second of the two new garden beds into place. We had generated some “char” in a recent burn off of branches (after we cut off any usable wood). I wouldn’t call it “biochar” as it wasn’t produced properly but most of the pile was charcoal so “char” it is and I am sure it will be good for the garden so after it cooled down I hauled it up to Sanctuary in a wheelbarrow and tipped it onto the ground before I dug the second of the new beds.

My wheelbarrow of "char". Nothing gets wasted around here!

My wheelbarrow of “char”. Nothing gets wasted around here!

Earl "helping" in Sanctuary

Earl “helping” in Sanctuary

Earl helping some more...

Earl helping some more…

Steve noticed this really wonderful way to make a good water hand pump out of PVC pipe and a few easy to get hold of cheap items (to make the valves) on Facebook the other day. I will share it here with you all as you can never have enough hats, bags and good cheap water pumps!…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaho7JSVS1I 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG6own141z0&feature=youtube_gdata_player 

The first video shows you how to make the pump and the second one shows you how to make the one way valves. The pump can be used to pump water or air. I am going to make 4 of them, one for each limb 😉

King Earl of the dung heap ;)

King Earl of the dung heap 😉

The sweet potato cuttings that I got from our friend Jenny's house last Friday. I read that the best way to grow sweet potatoes was by cuttings.

The sweet potato cuttings that I got from our friend Jenny’s house last Friday. I read that the best way to grow sweet potatoes was by cuttings.

I am in awe at how quickly these roots grew. This was 3 days after I put them into some water in the kitchen and just before I planted them out

I am in awe at how quickly these roots grew. This was 3 days after I put them into some water in the kitchen and just before I planted them out

My new large bench and a potted up cucamelon for a friend

My new large bench and a potted up cucamelon for a friend

Yesterday Steve and I pruned our 7 little grape vines that I grew from cuttings from our muscat grape vine in the city. We researched how to do it and we staked them up so that next year we can start training them to grow on a trellis. Steve made me a lovely big bench to use in Sanctuary and then knocked up another one because I said that I could carry the bench around with me and sit down and water (and Don Burke thought that HE was the lazy gardener! 😉 ) and now I don’t even have to lug the bench around :). It got pretty hot then so we hunkered down inside and spent the rest of the day relaxing. Today has been spent out in the garden potting up my 10 long suffering artichoke babies that desperately needed moving to bigger pots to grow on before I plant them out in the main garden. I also planted out my cucamelon/mouse melon (Melothria scabra)  babies (and potted one up to give to a friend). I was sent the seed by the wonderful Bev from Foodnstuff on the mainland after lamenting that I would never find the seed here in Tasmania. I then found out that my son was growing cucamelons as well. When asking him where he got his seed he said “Bunnings”…oh well! 😉 I had 19 of them germinate and gave 8 of them away so I have 11 left. That was my mathematics lesson for the day folks! (Did I pass?) If you would like to know more about this most interesting of fruits/vegetables (one of the two 😉 ) here is an interesting link that also contains a recipe for how to preserve them…

http://homegrown-revolution.co.uk/savoury-fruit/growing-cucamelons/

The top new garden planted out with potatoes that had gone to seed and sweet potato cuttings (that you can't see but that are already growing leaves :) )

The top new garden planted out with potatoes that had gone to seed and sweet potato cuttings (that you can’t see but that are already growing leaves 🙂 )

The new garden bed planted out with all kinds of seedlings from the glasshouse. I have since added basil and bergamot seedlings to the mix.

The new garden bed planted out with all kinds of seedlings from the glasshouse. I have since added basil and bergamot seedlings to the mix.

The second new garden bed is very long. I didn't have enough manure/oak leaf mix to fill it all so the last bit is now my new compost heap where I will create my own soil for another garden. I love the possibilities of gardening :)

The second new garden bed is very long. I didn’t have enough manure/oak leaf mix to fill it all so the last bit is now my new compost heap where I will create my own soil for another garden. I love the possibilities of gardening 🙂

I also planted out basil, bergamot and some chilli’s that had been languishing in with the artichokes as now we have room to plant them. I had already planted out eggplants, tomatoes, tomatillos and capsicum plants. I am not really bothered that it’s a bit late for them, I just didn’t want to waste them in the glasshouse and now they at least have a chance to grow out in the sunshine. Steve and I often walk our dogs over in Beaconsfield, a small town about  10 minutes away from here and on one of our walks we noticed an old cast iron bath out the back of the local council buildings. We kept seeing it on our walks and so I decided to phone up council and ask if we could have it. I got a phone call back today to say that I could pick it up whenever I wanted it and so Sanctuary is just about to get a nice pond. I have been lusting after a bath ever since Bev from the amazingly informative permaculture blog “Foodnstuff” posted about storing water in the garden in non-conventional (and cheap) ways…

https://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/storing-water-for-the-garden/

Can you see one of your baby pepino's in the jungle that is Sanctuary Bev? ;)

Can you see one of your baby pepino’s in the jungle that is Sanctuary Bev? 😉

Towering 8ft tall Jerusalem artichokes dwarfing rhubarb that has gone to seed and raspberries in a compost heap

Towering 8ft tall Jerusalem artichokes dwarfing rhubarb that has gone to seed and raspberries in a compost heap

Potted up artichoke babies and one of the chaotic garden beds that forms the bulk of Sanctuary

Potted up artichoke babies and one of the chaotic garden beds that forms the bulk of Sanctuary

My little tiny loquat seedlings that I dug up from the road verge last year are growing like crazy now that I have planted them out inside the new dog compound. Nothing touches them and the fruit is delicious :)

My little tiny loquat seedlings that I dug up from the road verge last year are growing like crazy now that I have planted them out inside the new dog compound. Nothing touches them and the fruit is delicious 🙂

Cucamelons ready to plant out

Cucamelons ready to plant out

The new cucamelon enclosure. Apparently they can grow to 3 metres high so maybe I should have planned a bit better but they are over in the top of Sanctuary where not much else exists so if they want to invade Poland they can knock themselves out ;)

The new cucamelon enclosure. Apparently they can grow to 3 metres high so maybe I should have planned a bit better but they are over in the top of Sanctuary where not much else exists so if they want to invade Poland they can knock themselves out 😉

A regular sweet cherry and a sour cherry that our friend Jenny gave to us. She can't plant them on her property as the possums would simply hoover them down. Now that we have an Earl protected (at all hours of the day) inner sanctum compound, these cherries should grow and flourish free from possum invasion

A regular sweet cherry and a sour cherry that our friend Jenny gave to us. She can’t plant them on her property as the possums would simply hoover them down. Now that we have an Earl protected (at all hours of the day) inner sanctum compound, these cherries should grow and flourish free from possum invasion

So we have been busy as beavers here in sunny Sidmouth on Serendipity Farm. Hopefully you have all had a most excellent first week of the new year. We have certainly started out as we mean to finish up. I have even been writing things in my new day to day diary to make sure that I don’t forget things (that probably won’t even last till February but whatchagonnadoeh? 😉 ). I am tired but in a good way and very excited by all of the different things that we are contemplating this year. Have a great week everyone until we get together again next Wednesday to have a chat and a cuppa and catch up where we left off 🙂

Earl had a hard night on the bottle ;)

Earl had a hard night on the bottle 😉

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The 1 1/2 hour duck and Steve Solomon reads our soily tea leaves

Hi All

Now that the sap in my brain is flowing at an equal rate to that of the plant community on Serendipity Farm I am hurling myself into a new phase. I am researching cool climate permaculture at night and in the day, Steve and I are venturing out into the sodden soggy wasteland that we call home with new eyes on. No more overwhelmed city slickers for us! Its year 3 on Serendipity Farm and we have learned to combine our studies with our ultimate reason for being here, our desire to change Serendipity Farm for the better. Procrastination stops action and is the scourge of our generation where change seems to be ramping itself up on a daily basis and it’s wonderful to immerse ourselves in a slower more holistic approach. It’s also wonderful to be able to stand back and see what we once thought were problems, turn into solutions and actual assets before our eyes when permaculture and other systems that work sympathetically with nature are applied. I have actually managed to get my rss feed reader blogs down to a manageable level. I am loath to rid myself of any of them and have found a way to make sure that I get an amazingly broad spectrum of my personal interests in a nice slice of daily mind nourishing blog cake. It’s like one of those rainbow layer cakes for the brain but substitute artificial colours, flavours and white flour for healthier alternatives and you have my daily rainbow cake of happiness. Spencer at anthropogen.com never ceases to amaze me with his never ending search for ways to apply natural solutions to the worlds current problems and more importantly, he shares his findings freely. Yesterday I learned how rainfall in the Amazonian rainforests is initiated by microscopic organic fungi particles…a fully self-perpetuating environment ensuring that water falls where it is needed most and it could almost be seen as the rainforest itself directing water where it is needed. When you start to remove mainstream human endeavours from the equation and step back and take a good look at what nature is actually doing ad-infinitum, you can’t be anything but awestruck by the magnificence of that amazing cyclic symphony of perpetual life.

Red sky in the morning, rain on Serendipity farm

Keen little certificate 3 horticulture students at the soil carbon day…I am sure that our class never looked this enthusiastic about anything!

I sat with Nat and our friend from the witness protection at the soil carbon day today and a great time was had by all

I TOLD you my brain sap was rising ;). Steve has been finding me all sorts of information about permaculture that is fuelling my inner fiery desire to get “stuck in” to working outside again. Steve sources the stuff and I mainstream it. As usual, we are entirely different when it comes to how we work. Steve is a hands on man who works from the outside in and isn’t all that interested in where the information came from. He would rather just go out and “do” it. I am the exact opposite. I am the researcher, the porer-overer of books, the disciple of knowledge and information who positively beams whenever I find a precious little gem that gives us a way to do something that we can use to effect change on Serendipity Farm and together we are formidable! I started wading through everything that we have been finding over the weekend and discovered that most of it is stacked for the tropics. I accept that its heaven on a horticultural stick to grow plants in the tropics BUT we don’t live there…so now I am honing my searches to cool climate permaculture so that we can use what we find directly without having to sieve it through several filters to sift out the heat, the plants that will NOT grow here and the sense of disappointment that comes from not being able to apply a large swath of information directly to our needs. Never one to give in that easily, I have managed to source a cool climate permaculture book by David Holmgren called “Sustainable living at “Melliodora” Hepburn Permaculture Gardens: a case study in cool climate permaculture 1985-1995”. Written for a cold climate and extremely pertinent to our local conditions (we might even be a bit warmer than David’s property!) this book has been placed on hold at the local library and we will be able to see how someone else has juggled a 4 season cold climate as compared to a 2 season (hot and dry or VERY hot and wet) tropical climate.

Frank Strie with another wonderful presentation about Biochar and how the process of slow cooking wood gives a multitude of benefits when dealing with our soil and with energy/heat production

The components of Franks illustrative biochar burner model. Note the can full of twigs that approximates a 44 gallon drum full of dry limb wood

Now tip that 44 gallon drum (imagine people…use your imagination!) upside down and drop it into a slightly larger metal drum that you have drilled large holes in the base so that you have a slight margin left between the sides of the drum full of wood and the slightly larger drum

The internet is wonderful! Not only can I talk to you from the comfort of my computer chair in front of my massive television monitor (I DON’T NEED GLASSES!), but Steve can ring me from town while he is in my Aladdin’s cave of great happiness…”Wholesome House” health food shop in Mowbray where David and Lee not only sell the products but know everything about them and practice what they preach and I can check something online for him to make sure that it’s what I want in an instant. Technology isn’t all bad folks! I have been delving deeper into Korean cuisine and found a wonderful website that I actually added to my rss feed reader it was so good. Mochi is something that I absolutely adore and this website gave me several recipes for how to make it along with how to make your own Korean ricecakes which are a sort of extruded thick paste (think big fat rice noodles as chunky as your little finger) that is cut into segments and used for body and texture in Korean cookery. Korean food is all about healthy, spicy tastiness and being a vegan, most of these recipes can be adapted to my kind of food. Steve and I were talking about vegetarianism yesterday whilst watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s great adventure into vegetables. Under his cover story of “I wanted to get healthier” was an apparently sky high cholesterol reading and a rapidly invading middle aged paunch. I forgive him his vanity because he is one of those genuine people who put his fame/money where his mouth is and gives as good as he gets. Cooking vegetarian is a doddle folks! Vegetarian cookery is full of eggs, cheese, cream and the only thing missing is the meat. Not hard to get something scrumptious when you coat it in sour cream, roll it in egg and crumbs and douse it liberally in thickened cream and when you add all of the options of other countries cuisines you can see how easy it is to venture into a world without meat. Going vegan is a bit harder but is now sufficiently mainstream as to be a “desirable” way to live. The extremists have veered off to Paleo diets and raw food diets and left us vegans to get on with quietly living our lives out of the spotlight.

Now you loosely fill that gap with small twigs, leaves or sawdust and light it

To eliminate smoke from the chamber you add a lid to the equation with holes in to catch the heat/smoke exchange

A slightly smaller metal drum (an old oil drum from some bulk cooking oil?) with a piece of metal tubing inserted through the top to carry the heat byproduct up through this second chamber

Going vegan is a worldly experience because there is a world of experience and love for pulses, legumes, grains and all sorts of weird and wonderful cultures and fermentations out there that open your eyes to just how amazing the human race is to have survived on local and attainable foodstuffs. Even things that are generally considered inedible or unpalatable have been messed about with and tweaked to yield edible foodstuffs. The humble acorn is one such food. On its own its disgusting. I know…I tried one! After being dried, pounded into a flour and washed continually until the tannins are leached out of the flour it is not only edible, it’s a staple food for many Baltic and other European countries. Try eating a ripe olive straight from the tree (again…I know because I tried one…) and you are given to wonder how ANYONE would think that “maybe I might be able to make this tasty if I brine it?”…we owe so much to our forefathers and foremothers for their dedicated hard work in showing us that you can not only eat these things, but they are delicacies. Crickets, worms, fermented stinky tofu…hmmmm maybe there are limits! But everyone takes for granted the amazing wealth of knowledge out there regarding food preparation and how to get the most nutrition out of what we eat. Food production is generally outside our sphere of thought because we just go to the shop and get it right? That’s what we did when we moved in and decided to make the most of the 4 acres of land that we have, we decided to make it work for us, and for all of the native inhabitants of Serendipity Farm.

Now for the bit where you diversify! You need a metal drum slightly larger than the second (bulk cooking oil) drum with copper pipe coiled in through a hole lower down in this drum and coiled to fit loosely around the inner drum and exiting through a hole further up the drum…stay with me here folks…

Here’s the second chamber over the holes in the lid of the first chamber

And now you invert the last drum (with the copper coiled pipe) over the top of the drum with the pipe and voila, you have a small personal biochar manufacturer coupled with a hot water heater! I love this idea so much I am going to attempt to manufacture one of these for summer use on Serendipity Farm

As we walk the dogs every day, I have started to really look at what grows well in our local area. Cherry plums grow amazingly well. In Tasmania its apparently a sport to whinge about Cherry Plums. They grow like topsy here and I, for one, have made a mental note to plant some along the boundary fences to feed the possums and distract them from our more highly prized fruits. I dug up 4 little loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) from a road verge last year and they overwintered in the glass house and are going great guns. After a sufficient hardening off period in a sheltered spot on Serendipity Farm, these little free babies are going to be put to work as possum bait futures. We will be planting out kiwifruit, Muscat (and other) grapes and all sorts of currants and berries including ground covers (strawberries), vines (thornless blackberries) and shrubs (currants and native plum pines and native cranberries) to lure the possums away from our primary crops. It’s all about sharing the land and once our local possums get wind of a year round food supply they will be battling the ensuing hoards for their position of superiority. Feeding a few possums to guard from the many is a good sacrifice to be making! On Wednesday (today but typed on Monday) our friend in the witness protection and I are heading into Launceston to “The Tramshed” where we are going to learn all about local soil and its limitations as part of the Tamar NRM August Sustainability Month. I have gotten an incredible amount of free knowledge from this wonderful organisation and feel very privileged to have met so many passionate local people. It’s a huge pity that Tasmanian’s as a whole would rather eat their own feet than learn something new, and even the prospect of an amazing free day with morning and afternoon tea and a fantastic lunch provided can’t even lure them out of their armchairs. I am NOT Tasmanian. I don’t even mind being a “Mainlander Outcast”…suits me folks! If that means that I can sit in a room of 15 people with a fantastic view of the podium and learn quality information for free then so-be-it! I have really been reinvigorated by everything that I have learned over the past month and am inspired to apply most of it to our day to day working on our property.

Check out the root system on one of Frank’s lettuces grown in compost layered with biochar. This stuff is amazing!

I just had my very first case of what might be construed as “homesickness” since we moved to Tasmania. The funny thing was, it wasn’t even “home” I felt nostalgic for! It was the Western Australian capital city Perth that got me feeling a little wistful. Perth is an amazing multicultural hodgepodge of everything a person could need. We used to head up at least a few times a year on the 400+km long haul to stock up with everything that we couldn’t purchase locally, usually Asian grocery items and other ethnic foodstuffs that Albany simply didn’t have. I loved Perth aside from the heat when it was summer (which was coincidentally our usual time to visit…). I remember one of our “must visit’s” being Kakulas Brothers bulk produce that made me incredibly envious of people in Perth who could just drop in whenever the fancy took them. For us, it meant a large spend to stock up on all sorts of dried beans, herbs, spices etc. that we simply couldn’t get in Albany. The very last time that we shopped in Kakulas we were served by Mr Kakulas (since passed away) who started this thriving and no doubt incredibly profitable landmark in the city. He had to leave part way through serving us and the girl that took over told us that he had a real hands on approach to his business and was often to be found serving behind the counter and chatting to customers asking them about what they liked and didn’t like about his shop. I dare say that this 80 something year old man had his finger on the pulse of that well-oiled machine because every single time we ventured through those hallowed doors, the place was thronging with customers. You give people what they want, they come back! I also remember Kong’s, a large Asian supermarket, one of many in Northbridge a multicultural suburb of Perth and the restaurant strip of the city. A very exciting place to wander around and immerse yourself in culture. I love Perth. I haven’t found a city close to its vibrant eclectic laid back sense of entitlement and always loved to visit even though the 6 hour car trip had knobs on!

The stuff that dreams are made of!

Back to Wednesday and just about to have a shower ready to head off to Launceston with our friend in the witness protection for a day learning all about soil carbon courtesy of the Tamar NRM. I have a newfound appreciation for this humble behind the scenes group who have been putting on some pretty amazing free events in the hope of educating some of us as to what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our soils. Steve has been hunting. He has found me a myriad of information about permaculture including videos, pdf’s and all sorts of documents that I am going to share with my friend today. “Just bring your laptop and I can stuff you full of garden hope!” We are in similar situations with our garden. “Chaos”. Hers is denuded of all vegetation and anything that she plants is instantly visible and noted as “prey” by the many nocturnal visitors to her 50 acre property out in the bush. She is so far out in the bush that she doesn’t have electricity, water or phone and her family are completely off grid.  We have plenty of vegetation’s but no order and both of us have those troublesome little nocturnal visitors who like to swing about on our tender new vegetation, however the feral cats have been leaving us “tails”…we can only guess that they were once young possums! No sign of the duck that we owned for 1 ½ hours that we bought for our lonely girl who quacks herself hoarse for her sister. We bought it from the grouchy old bee/duck man up the road for $15. Lucky we didn’t spend a fortune because after luring us to let it out of the outside coop area by making doe-eyes at our duck and trying desperately to get out “to her” it hightailed it over to the nearest high spot and made like a tree and leafed! The last we saw of it, it was running faster than Earl on the scent of a chicken towards the bush at the back of our neighbours block. We must have made a funny site, just on dusk, running with rakes in pursuit…our neighbour to the rear drove down to see what the commotion was about (no rake I note Noel…not going to join in the frothing melee?) and we had to reassure him that we were not insane nor were we intent on taking our rakes to Frank’s house. Not only are we now “those crazy hippies down the hill” but we are also “those crazy whacked out hippies down the hill!”…sigh…I have found a use for a large stainless steel enclosed drum that we inherited on dad’s “steel pile” left here for years by nefarious steel pilferers around the state. I am now the king of that castle by default and so I am trying to make the most of what we were left “cheers for that pile of steel dad…” by putting it to uses that my dad would have shaken his head and said “done ya dough” to whilst walking away disgustedly. I have come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be one of my dad’s favourite children and actually enjoyed the rise I got whenever discussing my fantastic schemes…dad hated hippies…my job there was done!

Looky here people, another massive post rolls out onto the printing floor and I haven’t even had my shower yet! Sorry about sitting here overnight smelly and with unkempt hair but you know how it is… the press never stops! Got to get you all something to read over your cocoa and here it is, unadorned, severely unedited and most definitely passionately heartfelt. Have a fantastic time till Saturday. The sun is weakly sniffing around the perimeters of Serendipity Farm but I am NOT lured into thinking that we are going to have anything other than the rain that was forecast! A day sitting indoors listening to precious information about soil amelioration and soil carbon is most probably the best outcome for today. See you Saturday and don’t sweat the small stuff folks…it will still be there tomorrow! 😉

Don’t sweat the processes

Hi All

We have been so very clever at sidelining life’s “Processes” as time wasters, energy robbers and too menial for our consideration that we have failed to notice that life is IN the processes. We have fallen victim to the hype and the advertising blurb and we have handed over huge chunks of experience and understanding and knowledge for something with an electrical plug and food prepared beyond its nutritional capabilities on a dyspeptic plastic wrapper and we actually believed that it would give us back something that we were missing…the ironic thing is that what is missing in all of our lives is the process that takes us from A to B to C and back again…the cycles that make up our birth, our life and our death are all interconnected and designed to teach us vital lessons so that we can live each precious moment of whatever time we have here on earth. I realised this when I was walking from my daughter’s home to where the Food Sustainability day was being held. I had an umbrella clutched in my hand to shore myself against the rain and soon fell into a regular gait that matched my thoughts. Where do we think we are going in such an almighty rush and what are we expecting to find at the end of it? Are we all losing our happiness in simple moments thanks to an exponential expectation of needs that we are assured are not (are NEVER) being met? I backed out like a hermit crab on steroids of mainstream treadmill hell quite a few years ago. I gave away my right to be a supermodel (an obvious choice), a superlative career on the stage (my 2 years of Speech and Drama assured me of something akin to acting Nirvana…) and any claim to being the most popular person in the world, a lesson learned way back at the age of 4 when Chad Johnson assured me of my position in the pack by telling me I was fat. I pushed Chad Johnson in the pond and was severely chastised for my efforts (but MAN it felt good to show him that assholes don’t always win and set me up for a lifetime of truth, justice and the Aussie way! 😉 ). I gave it all up folks for a chance to live a “real” life. To be able to take the time to bumble my way through my own personal experiences in my own good time and find out just what this life actually means to “me”.

Steve’s clever idea for how to achieve extra space on our countertops

Bags of mushroom compost waiting to be unloaded and stored for future use and for garnering a crop or two of mushrooms before that.

Glad (ys) next door is turning 90 on Saturday. We bought her a card with an elderly (no doubt younger than her but you wouldn’t know it!) lady with her bloomers in the air on the ascent of a ride on a swing. I dare say she will get her fill of flowery, sentimental cards. From her reprobate neighbours she will get her card with “Happy 22nd” written inside it, she will get a spongecake with some precious elixir jam from Olalla so that she can taste Olalla heaven at least once in her life and she will get a dozen Serendipity Farm eggs. I would give her 4 dozen but she doesn’t eat many eggs and my gift would end up a hindrance. Glad has taught me about resilience, about how living out in the bush all by yourself is not something to be feared. This 90 year old lady (and I use the word “lady” without hesitation!) heads out into her garden and walks around the block every day. She is as quick as a whippet and twice as fast in a verbal relay and if I wasn’t worried that she was thinking that I was “in her pocket” I would visit her more often. She grows vegetables every year, she laughs like a stevedore (I haven’t heard her swear but I dare say if she did, it would be with gusto) and she gives me the hope that old age isn’t all it’s made out to be. On the pointy end of 49 I am putting out my mental tendrils and am tentatively touching “aging” as one of my new parameters. Glad has shown me that it’s nothing to fear. That is something special and precious Glad, thank you for being our neighbour :o).

Spring comes to Serendipity Farm along with some purest green

I am relishing my penniless student hippy requirement to be thrust right back into the dreaded “Life Processes”. I am apparently a loser…someone who doesn’t consume much and thus a burden on society. The last sentence is not my personal view but that of any advertising agency in the world. I won’t be buying a new car any day soon…I don’t want to buy the latest shoes, makeup or haute couture…I am trying to minimise my spending and my carbon footprint down as far as I can and in the process I am automatically negated entirely in their eyes and I couldn’t be happier! I am really enjoying learning how to make sourdough and am bucking the trend for needing “more time for ME” in my life. I am starting to discover that “ME” is in the processes as well…I am finding my own personal rhythm, my own personal pace and mental alacrity as I tend the chickens, feed the sourdough starter every two days, fetch wood for the fire and I am finding a sense of peace, happiness and direction that only appeared when I gave up trying to keep up on that societal treadmill to nowhere. I like “wasting my time” for 3 days to bake a loaf of sourdough bread that is going to feed more than my body. I like pulling time out of my day to read…to research…to learn…to take my mind where it hasn’t been before. I might not be able to ever set foot on the moon (if, indeed ANYONE ever has…) BUT I am able to land my own personal mindspace craft on a new planet of information each and every day. What’s not to love about that? “Swings and roundabouts”…we make trades every day of our lives and how many of us actually think about the consequences of those trades that we make mindlessly and assisted only by someone with profit margins and not our own interests at heart?

Herman safely in his fruit pot. Note the bent lid…he has been forcing his way out!

Herman doing his best baby bird impression to get me to feed him

I am slowly (and admittedly fearfully) making my way through my rss feed reader that becomes packed to the back gills if I leave it for a single day, let alone a week. I love all of the blogs that I have crammed into my overworked reader and always greedy for something, I have stuffed my mind full of their delicious contents…can your mind get obese? I think mine is approaching Jabber the Hutt status as I type this. Hopefully I don’t have a mental coronary and end up sitting halfway through a post with far-away eyes (cheers for that one Mr Jagger 😉 ) and drool running down my chin but that’s the risk I take…”someone has to do it!” I absorbed so much information when I went to the Food Sustainability day run by the Tamar NRM that my brain got tired. Even with a few beige speakers who were intent on elevating themselves to some personal Nirvana by educating we lesser human beings (yeh like we NEED to know about pressure cookers or how little we know about soils actual chemical composition and how f@#*ing fantastic your own soil is!) that I could tune out and allow my overly excited brain a bit of a rest in-between the quality stuff, this little black duck wanted it all! I got all sorts of websites (curiously, the link to the techy beige persons amazing you beaut PDF for we mere mortals to gain his quality information from didn’t work 😉 ) to eke out my need to find out more. Some might call it nosey; I choose to think of myself as “pro knowledge”. I have been researching pyrolysis, biochar, permaculture and all things to do with food sustainability in our local environment and have discovered hectares of precious information for the taking. I feel like a rat let loose in a cereal factory and I can feel my brain swelling with each and every delicious morsel.

Herman and “the others” on the proving rack over Brunhilda

A quick hunt online and we suddenly had a solution for what to do with “The Others”

In the dehydrator soon to be joined by 8 more trays that after a day are just about dehydrated and tomorrow will be nice and crispy and dry and ready to crumble up and store away “just in case” or for any friends wanting a starter

I don’t think that I could ever be a “real” writer. I love words too much. I couldn’t cull them and cut them and my natural verbosity comes from a desire to cloth myself in description. I wouldn’t be able to keep an editor long because of my passionate desire to pad out life with descriptions. I don’t work well with others, ask poor Steve  ;).  It’s a glorious day outside! Who would have thought that the weather man could be so heinously wrong? I could have washed my blankets today…I could have planned a day out in the garden…I could have stood on my head in the sunshine and performed some complicated yoga move (I am sure I could find one online) but NO…I believed the weather man again and made plans for a wet day holed up inside. “Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on ME!” No more Mr Weatherman! You have fooled me once too often and it will be a cold day in purgatory before I believe your silver tongue again! I am just waiting for Steve to make one of his new signature Serendipity 4Q hangers. He got the idea from a photo on Facebook and he has been ruminating about them ever since. He is sending one of them down the road to our friend’s house where I am just about to deliver 1 dozen eggs and a banksia that we grew from seed. At least ONE of our potted plants will find a happy forever home out in the soil. Our friend asked us if we would like any old rope net because he has been getting heaps of it from the local fish farm. Yes PLEASE! I can see vegetable gardens free of possum invasion in our collective near future! Generosity breeds generosity and I fully believe that if you are a generous spirit, when you need something, the universe will find a way to give it to you. That’s always been my creed and I am not going to stop thinking like that any day soon. It helps when you don’t have a whole lot of anything to be free with though ;). I love the bartering process. I love slicing the middle man neatly from the entire transaction and going straight to the source. I used to like watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall barter for what he wanted by working or cooking or doing other strange things to enable him to gain what he needed. I think he has underlings bartering for him now but more credit to him; he certainly puts his money where his ethics are so he is still my numero uno sustainability television hero of choice. I am a frivolous creature though, fickle to the core so don’t get too comfortable in your esteemed position sunshine…I am likely to dump you like a hotcake should you ever turn tail and head down the mass consumerist road like several of my past heroes have done!

I think I am going to enter Steve in the local Agricultural Show this year in the “Spongecake” class…I think he has a chance don’t you?

Herman after his measuring out and feeding this morning. Hopefully he doesn’t mind his new glass container (kids can be so tempermental!)

I have inherited a monster! I should have known when my new sourdough turned up smelling like booze and he had escaped his container that he was going to be a handful. I have the sourdough starter equivalent of Earl running amok on Serendipity Farm. 1 became 2 that became 4 that became 8 that went back to 5 because I gave 3 of them to new homes. Then we turned 2 into the 3 day project known as “sourdough bread manufacture”. Today we fed them and they took so much flour that I ended up with 2 large casserole dishes full of dough and a very large ceramic bowl overflowing with manic frothing vinegar hell bent on taking over the kitchen. I just threw every last skerrick of flour that we have left in the house into the bubbling cauldron and hopefully the inclusion of the remains of a forgotten packet of wholemeal flour might just suck up some of its enthusiasm. I feel like we are living on borrowed time and tomorrow…we bake! I am off for our first meeting of the Tamar Permaculture Permablitz Society. I just made that up. Really, we are just a motley crew of passionate misfits with a desire to change the world, one property at a time. I think I just created our advertising blurb! I have no idea who is going to turn up to this first meeting aside from me and Frances. Me because I need this and Frances because it’s her house so she doesn’t get a say in it. Again I find myself tapping away late at night after realising that I will be away most of the day tomorrow and when I get back I will be held in slavetude by at least 4 sourdough loaves that will be barking at their container rims and demanding that they be baked. I baked off some roasted veggies today including some lovely small parsnips, some carrots, sweet potatoes (both orange and white) and the remains of a pumpkin just about to turn various mouldy shades of the rainbow before I halted it in its descent into madness. I used some garlic oil that I found in the fridge that had a curious scent of cinnamon until I realised that I had omitted to wash the cinnamon out of the jar before I grabbed it to store the oil so I decided to balance the flavour/scent with cumin and coriander. I used some of the roasted veggies to line some miniature vegan tartlets that I made for tomorrows “do” and I made a batch of borlotti bean hummus to spread under the veggies. I made another batch of small tarts with some home-made roasted cashew cheese and asparagus, artichoke, grilled capsicum and mushroom and black olive. The remainder of the roasted veggies are going to be tossed into tomorrow night’s barley risotto, a nice easy meal after what promises to be a long and exciting day. I will take as many photos as my shutterbug fingers will let me as I want to share this process with you all. As we progress through our understanding of Permaculture and how to apply it to our requirements. In the meantime, I will be shackled to the kitchen counter feeding and baking sourdough bread. I half expected my sourdough experience to be a brief and sad affair resulting in something akin to a brick on a plate that I would put aside and rarely speak of again in anything but a derisory manner, however I was wrong! This sourdough starter doesn’t want to die; indeed it appears to have a very Napoleonic view of Serendipity Farm. Bring it on you sour froggie… the offspring of Attila the Hun is waiting for you! (Well…I DO have Germanic heritage 😉 ).

Steve picked me this bunch of free range daffies and in our recycled cut blue wine bottle who could ask for a prettier kitchen window? 🙂

Another manic week comes to a close. What is it about spring that seems to turbo-charge the environment and makes everything go so much faster? “I” don’t go any faster! I have a degree of internal excitement that would like me to go faster but I am doing my best to quash it before it erupts and causes me to do something that I may regret at a later date like order some kefir milk grains or start making sauerkraut. I think I will trundle my way into spring this time and remain aware, lucid and able to make credible judgement calls. The blackbirds, wattle birds, sparrows, wrens, Cuckoo Shrikes and every single hen on Serendipity Farm are on a fast track to crazy land but this little black duck is marching to the beat of her own drum this time! See you all on Wednesday and stand steadfast and take the change of seasons in your own good time :o).

There’s a mole in my head

Hi All

I am in the enviable blogging position of having too much to post today. I have at least 4 posts worth of material ruminating about inside my head and am going to have to divide them (much like amoeba) and sift through their content to make sure that no cross breeding goes on. I have an entire post of how I spent an hour on Sunday with my daughters and what we all created. I won’t be posting about that today because I have photos to jolt my memory for that post and need to document the rest because after a few days it fades into the ether and may never have the opportunity to resurface because my head tends to be constantly crammed full of “stuff” and my poor addled brain spends its days sifting through useless information and discarding it ad hoc (Note to self…you need to pay that poor overworked organ more!). I liken my condition to watching a mole at work. It makes a concerted start on an area of earth and starts flinging soil out in all directions until it achieves its holey goal. Most of the dirt that has been displaced just settles into a moley angle of repose that erodes away to nothing after a few days leaving no trace of mole activity. You wouldn’t even know that a mole had even dug aside from the hole, a few missing turnips and the erroneous dirt. Thus is the fate of my thoughts. The main reason for my visit to town was to attend a Sustainable Food Day. I attended last year and many of you can still remember my aversion to the felt hat brigade. Well I am pleased to say that the felt hat brigades were very conspicuous by their absence this year. It might have been too cold for them and aside from one lady who appeared to have made a career of being negative, the rest of us were there to learn. The most interesting (to me) talk revolved around Biochar and the speaker, Mr Frank Strie, was passionately eloquent about how the process of Pyrolysis can produce carbon negative energy whilst achieving increased soil fertility and locking down carbon in the soil at the very same time. Who couldn’t help but get excited about prospects like that?!

Frank is the very first person in this line of speakers all waiting for us to quiz them about their areas of expertise

Despite morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea supplied free of charge and all being substantial and delicious this is the sum of the local interest in food sustainability in the Tamar region. The speakers almost outnumbered the audience! It did make for a very cosy and friendly atmosphere though.

Here is Franks carrot experiment. The small carrots were grown in soil minus charcoal and the large carrots were grown in charcoal (Biochar) rich soil with the same packet of seeds and the same soil/growing conditions. This alone was enough for me to consider hosing down my burning piles before they reduce to ash in the future

Franks basket of tricks containing various jars of charcoal in different grades from coars through to dust and the “tin” at the back of the basket was actually a small model of a pyrolysis set up where the heat harnessed from slowly burning the charcoal is converted to power. A VERY interesting premise and one that I will be looking into in the near future

I met an amazing array of people and some of them are shaping up to be wonderful sources of discount information. A group of us are having a meeting this Saturday about Permaculture and what exactly “Zone 1” means. To keep the costs down we are going to meet up in each other’s houses and supply our own food for the duration of the meetings. Some of us live in far flung places and have started applying Permaculture Principals already so it is going to be very interesting to see just what other people are doing with their own little patch of Nirvana. We are building our own communities and taking what we are learning to friends, family and the wider community in the hopes that we can develop real community relationships that work. Frances (how could she NOT be an unmitigated genius with a name like that 😉 ) is also talking about Permablitzes where a group of like-minded Permies (cute name…like Kermit the frog is “Kermie”…) get together and blitz someone’s garden in a day. Everyone gets a turn to share in the work as well as a turn in getting their own garden blitzed. Frances is an amazing person who is incredibly knowledgeable about Permaculture and who has applied it in various places throughout the world. I can’t wait to see what we can do about Serendipity Farm and the obstacles that have now started turning from huge blockades into something usable. The more I learn the more excited I get because we can use our “problems” to work for us. Piles of weeds and debris? No problem! Use them to make weed tea, compost, and mulch or row compost.  Soil full of rocks that sets like porcelain in the summer? No problem! Use the rocks to form swales for the problem of the sloped nature and water run-off problem and kill 2 birds with one stone! As our lecturer Nick likes to remind us on a regular basis…”for every action, there is an equal, and opposite reaction”. It’s up to US to work out how to use whatever we have here to gain positive change.

A Daphne odora at the back door at my daughters home in Launceston. If you have never smelled Daphne in full flower you are missing out!

Some Hellebores that keep on keeping on also at my daughters home in town the irises just starting to emerge are a lovely bright yellow when they flower

A large camellia that Steve and I crown lifted when we lived with our daughters in town before we moved to Serendipity Farm. The dead looking mass of sticks in front of the camellia is actually a small cherry plant

A mass of my favourite flower, violets. I LOVE spring! 🙂

I think that spring is shoving the rear end of winter a little hard this year as it appears to be overriding the cold and ignoring the last bastions of winter. Everything is leafing up and starting to flower and the birds are all agitated and pairing up for the breeding season. I dare say we have a season of chickens just about to land on the doorstep but we are too busy to care at the moment. It would seem that just as nature has increased her activity, so have we. I seem to be steering a course for real activity on Serendipity Farm with all of the information that we have been getting and we are itching to get out into the garden and start working on our first year of vegetable gardening and planting out. We are going to try to get as many of our potted plants into the ground as we can in the next few weeks. Those that remain are going to be repotted and those that we don’t want, rehoused. My mind is a bit of a maelstrom with everything that I am trying to force into it at the moment and all of the new processes that we are starting. Usually winter blends pretty seamlessly into spring around here but this year seems to have an urgency about it that demands to be acted upon so never one to shirk the urgency of a season (who knows WHAT might happen if I did!) we have been rudely awakened from our winter hibernation and flung head first into instant activity. I just received the last of the fermentation books that I ordered from The Book Depository on Monday and an enormous tomb it is. It’s more an explanation of fermenting various things than actual recipes and allows the reader to experiment with ideas. It would seem that just about everything can be fermented and that segues nicely with my next book arrival, this time from Amazon. I had a bit of birthday money burning a hole in my already holey pockets. When pockets as holey as these start blazing its best to spend your dosh while it still lasts and before the bills arrive so spend I did! I bought 3 books, 1 of which isn’t in stock apparently and I have to wait. Guess which book it was Hannah… ;). One of them I have been waiting for most excitedly and with my latest round of fermentation it will fit in wonderfully. I can’t wait for Miyoko Schinner’s book “Artisan Vegan Cheeses” to get here. I have been using the bread prover over Brunhilda to give my ferments a chance to bask in her radiant love, much like Bezial lies lovingly at her feet with his big black head up against the warming oven.  They have been rewarding me with exponential growth and after giving away 3 of the 8 sourdough starters that Steve and I have been cultivating (to share the love) there are still 5 of them bubbling away ready to move to new homes when the desire arises. Up until lunch time today they were sharing the proving rack with a glass jug of wine yeast doing its thang that is now swimming free and winning the Serendipity Farm equivalent of the Olympic 100 metres breast-stroke in 17 litres of “Skeeter Pee”. Skeeter Pee is apparently potent quaffable lemon wine best drunk chilled in the summer after working hard in the garden. At 14% alcohol you wouldn’t want to drink too many of them in between shifts! We are enjoying seeking out alternatives to paying the middle man our hard studied dosh for something that we can make ourselves out of seasonal produce and by harnessing natural bacteria and fungus to work for us.

My idea of the juxtaposition between winters last bastion and the first flush of spring

Rescued rabbits from a battery meat farm in the North rehoused at Big Ears Animal Rescue where the girls rabbits have now found their new forever home. More about this admirable place in future posts.

Christi and The Bearded One land safely on Serendipity Farm. I am going to put this little picture in a small frame as original artwork by Keith to accompany the wonderful book that Christi sent to me along with some amazing Farmlet jams and some long gone dog treats that are but a fond memory in a sleep twitching dogs dreams now. I am going to use a little bit of this wonderful jam in a small cake that I am taking over for Glads 90th birthday this Saturday. Thank you SOOO much for you open friendship, your incredible generosity and your sisterhood Christi 🙂

I was chatting to the owner of Inspirations Nursery in Exeter the other day when we were picking up some mushroom compost. I love mushroom compost and its propensity to give. Why spend $25 on a mushroom kit when a few bags of mushroom compost will give you pretty similar yields and a whole lot of usable compost to hurl into your garden for quarter the price. We have 7 bags and are just about to lug it into the hidey hole under the house. I have some interesting ideas about what we can do with this wasted space directly beneath the house and growing mushrooms might be a good way to utilise it. After we picked up the mushroom compost we headed inside the nursery to have a little look at the range of seeds that were developed along with Steve Solomon and that are now propagated by a school as a partnership project. I found out that one of the local Resource Management groups is also partnering with the school so the children grow native plants for revegetation. It’s a win-win situation all round and a great way to show children that trees aren’t just for cutting down (it IS Tasmania after all 😉 ). While Steve was roaming about the outside looking at plants in pots I had a look at this amazing seed range and was struck by the wonderful rare old bean selection that was being offered. Apparently the owner has also partnered with another man who is passionate about cold climate beans. This struck a chord with me because one of the points that came out when one of the speakers was talking about food security was that Tasmania doesn’t grow its own grains or legumes. The selection of wonderful looking beans got me very excited. Most of them are grown to dry out and store for use as pulses and ground for high protein flours. Once the owner realised that I was very interested in his selection of beans he opened up and told me about some of the history of the beans. One long black bean was an American Indian variety called “Field of Tears” and was their staple bean crop named after their displacement from their homeland. There were beans of all shapes and colours and one particular kind of bean got me very excited. Getting excited about beans is lame, by the way, and only a fellow vegan could understand how excited I got with this one ;). It’s called a Tepary bean and is a Northern American bean that is just starting to discover a new audience thanks to its incredible drought tolerance and good texture and flavour and keeping qualities. The beans were grown in the desert and living on one of the driest countries on the planet anything edible that promises to perform well in drought conditions is my kind of food! Inspirations Nursery sells 2 kinds of Tepary bean, one nondescript light brown squarish bean and its gaudy white with blue spots cousin, also drought hardy and very nutritious. Here’s a good website with some quality information about Tepary beans if you are interested…

http://www.seedsofchange.com/enewsletter/issue_56/tepary_beans.aspx

The lazarus almond that was stone dead only last year, so much so that I had thrown it up the back of the garden and completely forgotten about it where it spent all summer devoid of water has apparently decided to live! My girls told me that it was alive and I didn’t believe them. It goes to show that plants can be a whole lot more resilient than you might initially think and it also goes to show that I have at least 1 almond tree ready to plant out on Serendipity Farm 🙂

This poor little Pieris japonica had been completely squashed by vegetation all around it last year. We liberated it and gave it a hair cut and it is repaying us (and the bees) by putting on an amazing floral display this year.

The chickens are not content with being able to roam freely all over Serendipity Farm horizontally, now they are determined to conquer the vertical! If they start laying on the chook shed roof you can just about forget paper, rock, scissors Steve!

One of the speakers at the Sustainable Food day talked about spreading various hardy edible plants around your garden and allowing them to go to seed and take up residence all over your property. I dare say this man’s garden isn’t ever going to feature in “Home and Garden” magazine but the idea struck a chord with me. He suggested broadcasting silverbeet, parsley, coriander, rocket, bok choy, chicory and another lady chimed up with celery, carrots, fennel and parsnips as also being easy to let run free on your property. The same man turned what is an incredibly invasive pest plant, Allium triquetrum (Three cornered Garlic) from something that was almost impossible to remove without herbicide to a positive asset by showing that it was indeed a culinary herb, edible and delicious! I love finding ways to turn a negative into a positive and the ultimate revenge is to eat your pest! Making weed tea or piling weeds up and covering them with black plastic for a few years is also a wonderful way to expunge your pent up frustration at a garden full of nitrogen scoffing weeds. Make them work FOR you. Everything has at least one positive (and usually several negative) points and if you can exploit that positive, you are ahead as far as I am concerned. I have a small patch of nettles in the veggie garden area that Steve has been itching to whipper snip since it grew. I am saving my nettles. Not only are they a good vegetable source of iron, make excellent soup and wine BUT they encourage beneficials, they are an indicator that the soil is very fertile (especially in phosphorus) and that the soil has been disturbed. They can be used as a compost activator and can be used to make weed tea that is low in phosphate but has good amounts of magnesium, sulphur (which is low in Tasmanian soils) and iron and coincidentally, they are one of the few plants that can tolerate and flourish in soil rich in poultry droppings ;). For every action (negative) there is an equal and opposite reaction (positive). Cheers Nick! Permaculture teaches us that everything has a use. We were just about to burn some piles of debris and wood and I mentioned this to my new Permaculture guru Frances and she said “DON’T”! She and I had talked about how water runs down our property and how we can’t dig swales to slow the descent and keep the water in our own soil thanks to the rocks. She pointed out that forming the vegetation into rows will act as a swale along with rocks heaped over them. I have SO much to learn but I am going to enjoy every single minute of it :o).

All kinds of fermenting bubbling experiments on Serendipity Farm. This bread proving rack is situated above Brunhilda and is the perfect place to ferment warm cultures. After receiving my latest big book of fermentation I can see this place being populated by some pretty weird foodstuffs…watch this space!

Kipfler seed potatoes ready to be planted into bags…having soil full of rocks is NOT going to stop me from enjoying my new kipflers fresh from the ground! The brown rice in the jar was used last night for blind baking Steves chicken, bacon, mushroom and beer pie pastry.

Another couple of thousand words just flew out of my fingertips. Get in line Merlin I have the magic touch! I might just spend the rest of this evening formulating my next post because I am just getting started and it’s time to finish. Steve is making me vegan pea and “ham” soup by substituting smoked paprika for the ham and green split peas for the regular yellow ones so tonight I will be dining on experimental food. I think that spring is full of experimentation. All sorts of new chances to mess about in the garden, to spend time working on projects outside, to give new life to our poor long suffering potted plants that are envious beyond belief at their already planted brethren. So much to do before the heat sets in and robs us of our energy and will to head out into the garden as surely as the winter rain does the very same thing. Serendipity Farm is awakening to all of the possibilities of spring and it would seem that so am I :o). See you all on Saturday and here’s hoping that all of you in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying the heralds of spring. Sorry you lot in the North, you HAD your turn! 😉